Ketogenic diet for human diseases: the underlying mechanisms and potential for clinical implementations

Signal Transduct Target Ther. 2022 Jan 17;7(1):11. doi: 10.1038/s41392-021-00831-w.


The ketogenic diet (KD) is a high-fat, adequate-protein, and very-low-carbohydrate diet regimen that mimics the metabolism of the fasting state to induce the production of ketone bodies. The KD has long been established as a remarkably successful dietary approach for the treatment of intractable epilepsy and has increasingly garnered research attention rapidly in the past decade, subject to emerging evidence of the promising therapeutic potential of the KD for various diseases, besides epilepsy, from obesity to malignancies. In this review, we summarize the experimental and/or clinical evidence of the efficacy and safety of the KD in different diseases, and discuss the possible mechanisms of action based on recent advances in understanding the influence of the KD at the cellular and molecular levels. We emphasize that the KD may function through multiple mechanisms, which remain to be further elucidated. The challenges and future directions for the clinical implementation of the KD in the treatment of a spectrum of diseases have been discussed. We suggest that, with encouraging evidence of therapeutic effects and increasing insights into the mechanisms of action, randomized controlled trials should be conducted to elucidate a foundation for the clinical use of the KD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic